Tombstone Blues

Wealthy investors spend millions to resurrect the neighborhood near Bellefontaine Cemetery. They discover that money can't do everything.

"You have to turn around and face the reality. You want to turn around here and do a development in an area that you don't know anything about? They don't know anything about you. Therefore somebody has to build up some trust, someplace. And trust takes time."

If anything typifies the cultural gap between the frontmen for the donors and the ward barons, it's the flare-ups that occurred between Hentschell and Troupe.

Jennifer Silverberg
The nightmare property owned by first-time landlord Sonja Wooten is undergoing a gut rehab so it can be resold as condominiums.
Jennifer Silverberg
The nightmare property owned by first-time landlord Sonja Wooten is undergoing a gut rehab so it can be resold as condominiums.

Hentschell is a big man -- he's about six-foot-five and weighs about 250 pounds. An accomplished architect of long standing, among other structures he designed the building that houses the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, a newspaper owned by Pulitzer Inc.

Troupe is an electrician by trade and is a longtime union official for the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 788. He's the 1st Ward committeeman and has been a state representative for 34 years.

Both Hentschell and Troupe are blunt and don't back off readily.

On at least two separate occasions during meetings, Troupe went off on Hentschell for using the term "you people" when referring to neighborhood residents. Hentschell recalls that he said "your people," but whatever was said, fireworks ensued.

At one meeting at the union hall on South Broadway, Hentschell says, "Quincy chewed me out, and I told him to go to hell." At the next meeting, one in the neighborhood, there was a reprise, he says:

"Quincy went after me again. He was nervous about me in general. Apparently, and I don't even recall saying it, this lady was asking how to get these grants set up, and I said, 'You've got to get your block captains together and then we'll have our team meet with your people and get this thing worked out.' And Quincy just said, 'Don't ever use "you people," you sonafabitch.' And I'm going, 'Oh, fuck you.' I picked up my briefcase and started to walk out, and Harold told me to go sit down. He said, 'Quincy's trying to show off a little bit.' Sure enough, as soon as he made his statement, he left."

Smith recalls the incidents but blames it on Hentschell's overall demeanor.

"Hentschell had really pissed off a lot of people," Smith recalls. "He'd come into a meeting and use the phrase 'you people.' You just don't do that. He did it, like, three times. The first time he did it, we were in a private meeting with elected officials from the ward. And Troupe checked him. He said, 'Man, you don't do that -- that's offensive.' He came and did it, like, three times in a meeting, and the people were, like, 'Who is he talking to?' Where in his mind he didn't mean anything by it, to my community that's insulting. That's insulting."

Whitfield, who is African-American, was present each time and simply says it was a mistake on Hentschell's part.

"If you're white, you never go to an African-American group and say 'you people.' You never do that. You can be as well intended as you want to be, that's just a lightning rod of a phrase that I've known all my life. I've known Hentschell since high school -- we played basketball together on playgrounds and stuff. He's my friend. I told him he made a mistake, that's a term you don't use, and he accepted that

Whitfield didn't think it was any big deal, just something that Troupe reacted to, after which the meeting moved on.

"It's a term that was used. It's like a lightning rod, and Hentschell was not conversant with that lightning rod," Whitfield says. "I didn't get the impression Troupe was taking any kind of racial position in this matter; he just reacted to it."

Smith says the problem with Hentschell extended beyond the "you people" comment.

"There was a problem with the architect they brought on," Smith says, referring to Hentschell. "A lot of people had problems with him, including the administration. It's just his manner. He doesn't know how to deal with people. He basically turned people off. He turned the staff at LRA off. The mayor's office might not admit it, but they were, too. He wouldn't return calls. The attitude was 'We're giving you this.'"

Hentschell doesn't see it that way. He thinks Smith and Troupe were defensive from the get-go and whatever he would have said would not have changed that.

"It was all about a bunch of wealthy white guys from Ladue coming into his neighborhood," Hentschell says of Troupe. "We said, 'Bullshit.' We're not forcing anybody to do anything. We're trying to give money away, no strings attached. That whole concept is foreign to them."

In the 1st Ward, there's enough credit and blame to go around. The donor group wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars and spent more than a year spinning its wheels before starting to buy and renovate properties. Its plans should have been spelled out more clearly. The group should have found Faye McFadden, or someone like her, sooner.

Irene Smith may appear overly touchy, but she cannot afford the luxury of taking offers at face value. Given her history with the mayor, her constituents do not enjoy favored-ward status. She has to fight for what she gets.

« Previous Page
Next Page »